Uit: Birds Without Wings
“Yusuf the Tall regarded such people with disdain. Moreover, it is one of the greatest curses of religion that it takes only the very slightest twist of a knife tip in the cloth of a shirt to turn neighbours who have loved each other into bitter enemies. He had lived serenely among Christians for most of his life, but now that she had despoiled and defiled herself with an infidel, this was the worst in all that tormented him.
Yusuf stopped pacing the room, and at last called his sons together. His other daughters assembled too, standing silent and cowed at the back of the darkened room.
When his sons were before him, Yusuf took his pistol from his sash, weighed it in his hand, took it by the barrel, and handed it to his second son, Sadettin. Sadettin took it by the butt, and looked at it in disbelief. At first his voice seemed to fail him. “Baba, not me,” he said.
“I have tried,” said Yusuf,”and I can’t. I am ashamed, but I can’t.”
“Not me, Baba. Why me?”
“You have courage. Great courage. And you are obedient. This is my command.”
Yusuf beheld the spiritual and moral agony of his second son, and the surprise, but he would not relent.
“It should be Ekrem,” pleaded his second son, gesturing towards the first-born. “Ekrem is oldest.” Ekrem held out his hands as if to push his brother away, shaking his head vigorously.
“Ekrem will take my place when your mother dies,” said Yusuf. “He is the first-born. You are all used to obeying him. He will be head of the family. It is you who must do this thing.” He paused. “I command it.”
Father and second son looked at each other for a long moment. “I command it,” repeated Yusuf the Tall.
“I would rather kill myself,” said Sadettin at last.
“I have other sons.” Yusuf placed his hand on Sadettin’s shoulder.
“I am your father.”
“I will never forgive you,” replied his second son.
“I know. Nonetheless, it is my decision. Sometimes . . .” and here he hesitated, trying to name whatever it is that takes our choices away, “. . . sometimes we are defeated.”
Louis de Bernières (Londen, 8 december 1954)